I am not a boat person. I don’t own deck shoes. I have never worn red trousers. I can’t tell you the difference between a jib and a boom. But after a week island-hopping along Turkey’s Carian coast on a gulet, a traditional wooden sailing boat converted into a luxury floating holiday home, I might just be a convert.
We met our vessel, Ya Selam, after dark in Bodrum marina, where the shisha bars and clubs were already blaring Turkish pop. We clambered aboard where it’s shoes off (I’ve watched enough Succession to know this rule) and sailed to a secluded bay, with only the sound of cicadas and the waves lapping at the boat to lull us to sleep. I had worried that I might feel sea sick, but the gentle rocking of the hull was like being in a Snoo for adults, and I slept like a Ferber-trained baby.
This was just the start of a trip that made me feel like I’d regressed to a state of infantile bliss. Lavish feasts seemed to appear from nowhere (they were cooked with great skill by Mehmet, one of four crew on board) and there was no need to make any decisions other than where on the prow to sunbathe, and what time to have my next nap.
Should you be in more of a decision-making mood, you can help to plot your course, the captain unfurling a big paper map on the polished mahogany table. Itineraries with Salamander Voyages are all bespoke, but they are at the whim of the winds. So a visit to a 12th-century village was out; instead we headed to a spot the locals call Aquarium Bay, where I didn’t even need the on-board snorkels to spot bright little fish darting about in the spearmint-coloured water.
Gulets are known as motor sailing boats because you have the option of powering up the engine, or using the two massive sails and letting the wind carry you. If you’re an experienced sailor, the crew will let you help out. But I decided it was best for everyone if I carried on with the important task of reading my book on the comfy day beds.
I had never considered a boating holiday before, but Salamander Voyages pitches its trips as an alternative to renting a villa — ‘no garden, but a much bigger pool’. In fact, it’s a cross between the no-need-to-lift-a-finger vibe of a luxury, all-inclusive resort and the privacy of a holiday home (Ya Selam sleeps 12 in six cosy wooden en suite cabins). The next few days settled into a rhythm of snoozing, eating (think stuffed roasted peppers, grilled meats and fish, multiple yoghurty dips) and sunbathing, punctuated by swimming and watersports. I was glad we were in a deserted bay with only olive trees to witness my wobbly attempts at paddleboarding. Ditto for my sailing lesson.
We stopped off at a crescent-shaped patch of pebbly beach and were the only visitors to wander around the ruins of a 5th-century church. We felt like we’d stepped back in time on a visit to the traditional village of Çökertme, where women wove rugs by hand and cows wandered in the street. While having breakfast on Orak Island we spotted a pair of dolphins putting on a show that would have put SeaWorld to shame.
When it was time to disembark, I felt land sick. I wandered around the designer knock-off bags and tourist shops of Bodrum and felt out of place among the landlubbers. Maybe I am a boat person now.
Salamander Voyages offers seven nights full-board, private charter of Ya Selam for 12 from £19,550, including transfers and drinks here.